Sometimes comedy fucking hurts. Jessie Kahnweiler’s brilliantly strange “Meet My Rapist” is a perfect example of laughing through pain. The internet has long had an argument — one that will probably never end — about when and where rape humor is funny. However, what’s so refreshing about “Meet My Rapist” it’s not gallows humor for the sake of an easy chuckle. It’s a devastating portrait of the grief process that follows sexual assault and the struggle to deal with abuse. Kahnweiler isn’t trying to “live with it” or move on. She just wants to figure out how to exist in a world where sexual assault is a daily reality.
For anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault, Kahnweiler’s film is triggering, but in a way that’s cathartic rather than jarring. Her work here is a way of taking ownership of her own experiences, in any way she wants. It reminded me so much of my own struggles in coming to terms with my assault — the times you hate yourself and hate your body. So many scenes are painfully resonant, as in a moment where Kahnweiler confides to her best friend about the assault, only to be asked if she was “really raped.” Her friend then goes through what “counts” as rape, and it’s a sharp satire of the ways our experiences can be so easily taken from us. Only you get to define your rape.
For many, “Meet My Rapist” won’t be a nice pill to swallow. The film is unusually blunt about the traumas that survivors go through. Upon meeting her rapist (who Kahnweiler brings to dinner), her father says, “Well, at least she’s not a lesbian anymore.” Later in the video, Ms. Kahnweiler tells her rapist, “I understand why you did it. I’m fucking adorable.” When he asks if that means Kahnweiler is over him, she reminds him, “I’ll never, ever be over you.” It’s a sobering reminder that even as we move on, we never leave these experiences behind. However, what Ms. Kahnweiler’s doing is using hers to start a conversation.
By shining light on the hard parts, Jessie Kahnweiler’s work is reminiscent of Louis C.K. The best comedy doesn’t just make us laugh. It forces us to ask questions about what our laughter means. Comedy can help us heal. If I ever meet Jessie Kahnweiler, I don’t just owe her my gratitude. I want to give her a giant fucking hug, as long as she’s okay with that. I only hug consensually.